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13 Important Ireland Travel Tips for First-Timers

13 Important Ireland Travel Tips for First-Timers

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Are you visiting Ireland for the first time? Check out these amazing Ireland travel tips for first-timers that will save you stress!
This list of Ireland travel tips was written by family travel expert Marcie Cheung and contains affiliate links, which means if you purchase something from one of my affiliate links, I may earn a small commission that goes back into maintaining this blog.

I just got back from a trip to Ireland and want to share all my top tips and tricks with you!

Famous for its cozy pubs, friendly locals, and hearty food, visiting Ireland is the travel equivalent of a warm hug. English speakers have a shared language which can make traveling in Ireland easier and less stressful than in other European countries.

But easier doesn’t mean easy!

Ireland is made up of two countries, for starters. There’s also an endless list of must-see attractions, both in the rolling green hills of the countryside and the cobblestone-lined cities.

These Ireland travel tips for first-timers will help you navigate the country and avoid all the mistakes other newbies in the Emerald Isle make.

Follow this Ireland travel guide to learn all the things to know about Ireland before visiting so you have an incredible vacation!

13 Incredible Ireland Travel Tips Worth a Read

Differences Between Northern Ireland and Ireland

One essential piece of Ireland travel advice to know before you go is to learn the differences between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland.

The Republic of Ireland split from Northern Ireland in 1921. The Republic is part of the European Union and Northern Ireland is part of the United Kingdom. However, culturally, many people who live in Northern Ireland think of themselves as Irish.

There is an open border between the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland.

Planning Your Ireland Trip

Ireland’s not a large country, but one of the best Ireland travel tips for first-timers is to learn about all the top destinations for travelers before booking anything.

Image of Marcie Cheung walking around Dublin, Ireland
Dublin is a cool city to explore. Photo credit: Tetiana in Dublin for Flytographer

Dublin is Ireland’s capital city and main travel hub, so you almost certainly will (and should) spend some time in this city. It has lots of pubs, museums, historic neighborhoods, and parks.

Other cities to consider visiting are Cork in the south, Galway in the west, and Belfast in Northern Ireland.

Any Ireland travel guide will rave about Ireland’s countryside. Ireland has six national parks with Connemara and Killarney being two of the most diverse. However, Glendalough in the Wicklow Mountains is widely considered one of the most beautiful landscapes in the country.

Image of Marcie Cheung in front of Powerscourt Waterfall in County Wicklow, Ireland
Powerscourt Waterfall was one of my favorite stops! Photo credit: Keryn Means

There’s no shortage of scenic drives, with the 111-mile Ring of Kerry taking the top spot. 30-mile Slea Head Drive and the 32-mile Causeway Coast are also beautiful.

The Cliffs of Moher and Giant’s Causeway are bucket list destinations for anyone visiting Ireland for the first time.

You may be surprised to learn that Ireland has 80 accessible islands, with Achill Island being the largest. The Aran Islands near Galway and the Skellig Islands near Killarney are well worth visiting when the ferries are running in the warmer months.

How Many Days in Ireland?

Two types of vacation make sense in Ireland: a city break and a road trip. If you just want to visit Dublin (or any of the other cities) then you’ll need a minimum of four days. 

It’s not worth flying over from North America for anything less! You can always take day trips to the countryside if four days is too many in a city.

Image of Marcie Cheung in front of a colorful street
Road tripping allowed us to stop at cute towns like Kinsale. Photo credit: Marcie Cheung

Of course, the best way to visit Ireland is by road trip! That’s what I did with my friend and we had a BLAST!

Seven days is the minimum number of days for a road trip. One of the best tips for traveling to Ireland is to plan a two-week itinerary if you have the time. Two weeks will allow you to drive around the whole island, including Northern Ireland.

Accommodation in Ireland

These next Ireland travel tips are about the variety of accommodation. The best type of accommodation depends on whereabouts you’re staying.

For instance, hotels are ideal in bigger cities like Dublin, Galway, and Belfast. You won’t need a parking space and you have the flexibility of leaving your luggage at any time. Get my list of kid-friendly Dublin hotels.

Image of the Woodenbridge Hotel in Wicklow, Ireland
We really liked staying at the Woodenbridge Hotel in Wicklow. Photo credit: Marcie Cheung

Guesthouses or Bed and Breakfasts are the best places to stay in countryside towns like Doolin and Killarney. If you’re lucky, the owners will be a lovely older couple with great stories and will serve a huge Irish breakfast in the morning!

Check out Airbnb for quirkier accommodation options in rural areas. You could end up staying in a pod with a sea view or even a tree house.

Ireland and Northern Ireland don’t charge tourist tax for accommodation like other European countries.

Public Transportation in Ireland

Ireland’s public transport system is better connected than in North America. However, one of the key general traveling in Ireland tips is to use public transport in cities and rent a car in the countryside.

The capital cities, Dublin and Belfast, are super walkable. But they also have buses and tram systems which you can figure out using Google Maps. 

Image of a tram in Dublin Ireland
Here’s one of the trams in Dublin. Photo credit: Marcie Cheung

For trams, buy a ticket from the machine on the platform before boarding. For buses, use a contactless credit card to pay the payment machine. Super easy! 

You can use the Translink train network to get from city to city.

Taxis and Ride Shares

While you’ll be able to access the Uber app in Ireland, almost no one in Ireland uses it! You’ll find that there aren’t many Uber drivers available either. 

FreeNow is the preferred taxi/ride-share app in both the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland. It is on the pricier side, but it’s much more reliable than any other taxi app. 

One-way trips between Dublin city center and Dublin Airport, for example, can cost around €30.

Renting a Car and Driving in Ireland

If you are traveling to more than one place in Dublin, one of the top travel tips for Ireland is to rent a car. This is what we did.

To drive in Ireland, you’ll need an International Driver’s License. It’s also a left-hand side of the road country and most people drive cars with manual transmissions.

If you’re used to driving an automatic, it might be worth requesting one from the rental company. They will charge extra, but it will be one less thing to worry about. Ireland’s countryside also has fairly narrow roads!

You can also drive across the Northern Ireland border in a rental car but expect a small extra fee. Note that the Republic of Ireland measures speed in kilometers, while Northern Ireland measures in miles.

Check your credit card benefits as they might cover car rental insurance.

Money in Ireland

The Republic of Ireland uses the Euro currency and Northern Ireland uses GBP. You won’t be able to pay in Euros in Northern Ireland and vice versa in the Republic of Ireland.

Euro-Money-960x640.jpg
You’ll want to grab Euros if you’re visiting the Republic of Ireland.

One of the smartest tips for travel to Ireland is to get a travel-friendly credit card that charges low fees for different currencies. Bring a Visa or Mastercard backup if American Express is your preferred type of card as it’s not widely accepted in Ireland.

There are lots of ATMs outside of banks or supermarkets that are safe to use. Seek out Tesco, Sainsbury’s, the Bank of Ireland, and Ulster Bank.

Keep a little bit of cash on you for small purchases.

Dining in Ireland Tips

Traditional Irish cuisine is similar to British cuisine. Don’t expect a lot of spices! It’s mostly hearty stews with potatoes, savory pies, and seafood.

You can’t leave Ireland without ordering an Irish-fried breakfast. Expect a huge plate of bacon, sausage, eggs, potatoes, beans, tomatoes, mushrooms, and white or black pudding. It’s usually served with soda bread which originated in Ireland.

Image of a bowl of Irish Stew and mashed potatoes
This bowl of Irish Stew was the best thing I ate in Ireland. Photo credit: Marcie Cheung

One of the most essential dining in Ireland tips is to book reservations for popular places in big cities, especially on the weekend.

Tipping in Ireland is more relaxed than in North America. It’s only mandatory to tip in restaurants, where 10-15% is perfect (20% for a big group or on a public holiday). Feel free to leave a couple of euros or pounds in a café or bar. 

Learn Some Irish Slang Words and Phrases

Ireland’s official languages are English and Irish (Gaeilge). Although most Irish people’s first language is English, there are lots of slang words and English-Gaelic mashups in common use that you may not have heard before!

One of the best travel in Ireland tips is to learn a few to listen out for. Here are the most popular slang words:

  • Craic (crack) – good fun or good chat/gossip
  • Eejit – idiot
  • Feck – a softer alternative to an expletive!
  • Grand – great
  • Bang on – correct
  • Chucking it/bucketing it down – raining heavy
  • Crack on – continue
  • Fella – man
  • Gaff – home
  • Gander – a quick look
  • Leg it – run fast
  • Lad/lass – boy/girl

If there are any others you hear on your travels, don’t be afraid to ask their meaning! Most Irish people love explaining the origins of their colorful language.

Ireland’s National Parks are Free to Enter

Unlike the US, Ireland’s national parks are completely open. You will not need to buy a national park pass before visiting! 

But one of the best traveling to Ireland tips is to stop by the Visitor Center anyway. All six Irish national parks have a visitor center nearby with a café, gift shop, and local information.

Get a Travel Adapter

Both the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland use the Type G socket. It takes large, three-pronged plugs and operates on a 230V supply voltage and 50Hz.

These are commonly known as the British sockets and they’re not widely used. Plus, they use a different voltage to North American sockets. Bring an adapter with USB sockets so you only need to pack one.

Safety and Awareness in Ireland

According to the U.S. Department of State, Ireland is a Level 1 country which is the safest level. It’s even safer than the UK! 

However, one of the key travel tips to Ireland is to be aware of the bar culture here. It’s common for large groups of very drunk people to be hanging outside of pubs in the city center on the weekends.

If you’re traveling with young kids or as a solo female traveler, try and stay away from these areas. Order a taxi back to your accommodation instead of walking.

Dublin is the only city where you need to be extra vigilant about your belongings in case of pickpockets. High-touristed areas like the Temple Bar neighborhood and outside the Guinness Storehouse are where you should be more cautious of pickpockets.

Tips on Traveling to Ireland FAQs

What is the best month to travel to Ireland?

The best months to travel to Ireland are April, May, September, and October. These months have the best balance of mild weather, fewer crowds, and less expensive accommodation.

How do you dress in Ireland and not look like a tourist?

One of the best fashion tips for traveling in Ireland and looking like a local is to wear ‘elevated’ casual clothing. 

Leave the exercise shorts and tank tops in your gym bag! Wear jeans, sturdy boots, and a nice wool sweater. You’ll need to pack a waterproof jacket no matter when you visit.

How much cash should I bring to Ireland?

Bring a small amount of cash (maybe $100 worth of Euros and $50 of GBP, depending on the length of your trip and where you are visiting). 

You will be able to use your credit cards almost everywhere, except small purchases in small businesses that will usually prefer cash.

Ireland Travel Tips Wrap-Up

Those are all the best Ireland travel tips that first-timers need to know!

Once you’ve figured out when and where you want to travel on your first time in Ireland, this guide has all the tips for Ireland travel you need. You don’t have to worry about transport, handling money, or whether or not you’ll understand the accents.

Focus on staying dry, soaking in the literary history, staying on the left-hand side of the road, and making memories. Sláinte!

Looking for more Ireland travel resources? Check out How To Plan a Trip to Ireland: Step-by-Step Guide, Ireland in Summer, 21 Most Spectacular Hidden Gems in Ireland, 19 Best Things To Do in Wicklow for Families Visiting Ireland, 17 Wonderful Things To Do in Wexford With Kids on Your Trip to Ireland, Insider’s List of Things to Do in Cork with Kids, How to Plan a Budget-Friendly Photo Shoot in Dublin, and 12 Best Day Trips From Dublin by Train!

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